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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Everything changes and yet nothing changes., 30 Mar 2013
This review is from: Harvest (Hardcover)
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What to say about Jim Crace's writing? Although he has achieved some recognition in the world of literary prizes and awards, he somehow manages to stay under the radar. Perhaps it's because his writing is quiet. He does not go for the controversial or the flamboyant flourish. Yet his writing remains modest and yet all the better for it.

Harvest follows the week in the life of a small un-named English community. We are not told where it is or when the events described happened. And don you know what? It doesn;t matter. It was 'once upon a time.' The novel opens the morning after the barley has all been gathered. Smoke hangs in the air. Something is wrong. This sense of disquiet deepens as a village lynch mob attack a group of three innocent strangers. The search for a woman among the strangers becomes a witch-hunt. Walter Thirsk, the novel's narrator and himself an erstwhile outsider in the community, is aware of the deeply disturbing currents of a changing society and the evil comes from within not out.

We twentieth-century western dwellers are confused about the past. We see it through rose-tinted lenses, according to our own lives. 'Things were uncomplicated,' we say. 'People knew their place, the agricultural life mirrored the seasons. Times were hard but everything was in balance.' Harvest-time conjures up bucolic jollity, companionship, a full barn, rosy-cheeks and a well-ordered world. But we can only look back because of the benefits modern life has brought us. But mostly life is what it is. We do not learn from the past and nothing changes. Humans havealways been suspicious of the new and the different. We are cruel; fear makes us as dangerous as a beast cornered. In Crace's community, sheep-farming is to replace the arable and there's nothing anyone can do about it. The people are ignorant, sensitive only to their own fearful ignorance. When the new landlord introduces sheep, he also intends to build a church where none has stood before, For the good of the people, the flock?

Written in a deceptively simple style, Crace lays down layer upon layer of timeless disquietude. There is no such thing as history. It is always a construction of our own myths and ignorance. Crace's novels need to be read slowly: absorbed, savoured and considered. Peel away the layers of text and you will find symbolism and eternal myth.

No-one writes like Jim Crace. I have heard this may be his last published novel but to me, this author is eternal. I can read him again and again.
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